Rory McIlroy confessed that the Chambers Bay horror greens got into his head as he all but kissed the US Open goodbye last night.
The world No 1 felt he should have shot a 65 to revive his slim hopes of a fifth major win.
But he missed seven birdie putts inside 15 feet on the back nine alone and had to drain a 10 footer for par at the last just to shoot 70 and remain back in the pack on four over par.
Admitting he lost the plot with that bad finish on Friday and three missed just after the turn last night, McIlroy confessed the problem was in his head,
He said: "Whenever you start to miss a couple you start to get a little tentative. You start to doubt yourself. You start to doubt the greens a little bit. And then it just sort snowballs from there.
“Every year the U.S. Open is very frustrating, apart from 2011. I came off the green on the last there and I said to JP, ‘Thank God I’ve got one of these.’
“You keep trying and keep going and I’ll give it a good go tomorrow.But I'm glad my name is on the trophy at least once and I'll try to make it twice at some point.”
Explain his mindset going out after Friday’s double bogey-bogey finish, he said: “I was very frustrated to drop three shots on the last two holes and go from somewhat in contention, six shots back to nine shots back last night.
“It's a big difference, especially here when it's so hard to make up shots, so hard to make birdies.
“So I was disappointed, but at least I had a chance today to go out and try and shoot a good score and get myself somewhat back into it.
“And for half of the round today it looked like I would. And it was just another disappointing finish.”
Two under after birdies at the second and seventh, Mcilroy had chances inside 15 feet on the first six holes on the back nine as well as an eight footer at the 17th and missed them all.
But apart from bogeys at the 11th, where he three putted from 40 feet, and the 15th, where he was bunkered off the tee, the killers were a lip-out for birdie from four feet at the 10th and his failture to get up and down for birdie at the 12th.
McIlroy said: “I would say that the putt on 10 was the real momentum stopper. I hit it really close there.
"That's a pin position where if you get it within 20 feet of the hole, you are going to be happy. To get it within three feet and miss that, that sort of stopped any momentum that I had.
“Then the bogey straight after and then not to birdie the 12 after that, those three holes I let a few shots slip and couldn’t recover there. Even though I gave myself plenty of chances on the way in after that.
“I holed a few nice ones early on, but once I missed a couple it got into my head and couldn't really get out of it.
“I didn’t let it go and I wasn’t trusting myself and trusting the pace of the greens. And then I was making some tentative strokes and then the ball tends to wander off line when you don’t hit it firm enough out here.”
Even Paul McGinley — his No 1 fan — wondered aloud how good McIlroy would be if he putted consistently well.
“What kind of player would Rory McIlroy be if he had Jordan Spieth putting for him?” Europe’s winning 2014 Ryder Cup skipper asked during his Sky Sports commentary.
The only putt McIlroy holed on the back nine was a 10 footer for par at the par-five 18th for par after he’d hit two fantastic shots into the greenside bunker but couldn't hold the green with his third.
Explaining why he raised his arms in triumph after that one, McIlroy said: “It was just nice to see one drop at the last there. I feel like I turned a 65 into a 70 today. Just real disappointed.
“I'm hitting great shots and great drives and giving myself chances the whole time. So it's just hard to stay patient whenever I'm not holing anything.
“I feel mentally I’ve accepted most things this week, which is good.”
Refusing to give up today, he said: “Depending on what the guys do this afternoon, if I can go out there and try to get to even par for the tournament as quickly as possible you never know what can happen.
"I'll need something spectacular tomorrow. If I can hit the ball like I did today and have one of my best every putting rounds, I still have a chance. We’ll see how that materialises."
As for Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke it was a week to forget for Northern Ireland’s other two active major winners.
McDowell came into the event struggling for form and while he did enough from tee to green to have hopes of making the cut, he was poor with the blade.
More worrying was his admission early in the week that motivation has become a real problem for the 2010 US Open champion and three-time Ryder Cup winner.
“I obviously haven't enjoyed the season, early in the year, not playing well, not scoring well, losing a little of confidence and belief,” McDowell said. “Thinking am I done, finished, washed up, should I think about getting a new job.
“All these crazy human instinct thoughts go through your mind, and it's just about trying to get back in your processes and trust what you're doing. And knowing that it's not necessarily going to happen fast.
“You've got to just dig in and start grinding again and go back to all the things that worked in the past.”
At the age of 46, Ryder Cup skipper Clarke will have few more chances to win a US Open but he too had a nightmare on the greens at Chambers Bay.
A total of 74 putts for two rounds was bad enough but Clarke was also fifth last for driving distance, out-hitting only Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Steve Marino, 15 year old Cole Hammer and senior player Colin Montgomerie.